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Archive for January, 2018

God, the Desert, and Me

It was well over a decade ago when I packed all my worldly possessions in my Geo Prizm and a minivan and my Dad and I made the cross-country trek from Michigan to a foreign land called California.  To a bona fide Midwesterner, it felt like falling off the edge of the earth.  Which, incidentally, was something we often prayed California would do.

On that long trek over, my Dad and I made a couple of sightseeing stops to break up the monotony and to prevent our bodies from fusing permanently into the shape of a car seat.  The first stop we made in California was not too far from the Arizona border off of Interstate 10.   It is called Joshua Tree National Park, and it straddles the Colorado and Mohave deserts.

I still remember crossing the border from Arizona into California, quiet and in awe of this new life I was embracing.  I felt such a special welcome from God, as if He was there waiting for me when I arrived.

I had learned that the park was on Mercy land, and I wanted to check it out.  My Dad and I had a wonderful time there. The best part was the climbing.  There are all kinds of really cool mounds and rock formations in the park.  It is a bouldering paradise.  You can do a lot more than bouldering, but that’s what I like the most.  The rocks are a type of granite, but the formation and erosion processes have roughened the surfaces and your shoes grip them fabulously.  We went joyously from one pile to the next like a couple of kids.

Over the course of the years I have gone back a couple of times.  My connection to the land there was positive each time.  I have gone back to do more climbing, and I have gone back just to be quiet and wait on the Lord.  That land holds a special place in my heart.

So, now, here I am, more than a decade later, and I am leaving California.  This fall I am moving to South Carolina, with the company, Sapphire Leadership Group, which I came here to work for.  It is a change of seasons, and it feels right.  But there are some goodbyes I need to make before I leave.

And God provided me the perfect opportunity to do one of those goodbyes this past weekend.

I drove to Phoenix to visit some of my Mom’s family for the long holiday weekend.  I had a whole day to make the 6 hour return trip, and it was basically the exact same route that I took ten years ago with my Dad.  I knew I had to stop at Joshua Tree again.

When you enter the park from Interstate 10, you drive for about twenty minutes before you get to the visitor’s center.  I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do this time, but since I was alone, I knew it wasn’t going to involve much climbing.  So, I just drifted along, looking for anything that jumped out at me.

When I arrived at the center, the exquisite timing of God started showing itself quite beautifully.   The first timing piece was a free entrance day.  I was there on a federal holiday, so maybe they do that every time, but it was a first for me!  But don’t worry, I ended up supporting the park even more than if I had paid to get in.  I was drawn like a magnet to these beautiful handmade clay tumblers and I realized that I didn’t have anything from the park to take to South Carolina with me.  So, I bought four of them for special occasions.  Cha ching!  Timing piece number two.  A win/win for me and the park.  When I went up to pay, I asked the ranger what was around.

Now, most of the time, I don’t ask.  I get a map and follow my spirit.  So, it was an unusual move for me to make, but it was such a God thing.  The ranger pointed to a three-mile loop trail that went past an abandoned mine.  The miners may not have found much there, but I just struck it rich!

I have a thing with abandoned buildings.  And I have wanted to go to an abandoned mine for a long time, but it has just never happened.  And here it was served to me on a silver platter.  And why hadn’t I heard about it before?  If my Dad and I had known about it, we would have gone there lickety-split.  And I had been back to the park twice since then.  This was apparently one of God’s best kept secrets from me.

But not anymore!  He spilled the beans, and I had a feeling He knew exactly why now.

The trail was easy to find and there were a good number of people there, but it wasn’t too crowded.  I did a lot of reminiscing as I walked.  I savored the past and all the things that had transpired since I was there the first time.  Some of it was wonderful, some of it awful, some of it bittersweet.  A lot of intense living and growing, crying, and laughing.  God was so on with the timing of the people.  I ran across quite a few at the beginning, but as I climbed higher, they thinned out.  So, I could stand and listen or sit in peace or talk out loud to myself as I am apt to do when emotionally processing.   Or when I have been too long at home alone.

After sitting on top of one ridge for a while, I clambered down and came around a curve in the trail to the sound of tin roofing clanging in the wind.  It was the mine.   There were timbers strewn about and some wooden structures still intact.  The mine shaft was visible, but fenced in with enough iron to survive Armageddon.  It hadn’t been a huge operation, but some poor soul had expected to make a whole lot more money there than they did.  I wandered around and stuck my nose into as much as I could get into and then I sat down and pondered.

Then I realized why now.

My attraction to abandoned buildings is layered.  And weird.  I know.  Here I am in the middle of God’s wild creation and I want to sit by a pile of tin and rotting wood.  Part of it is the mystery of the story.  What happened?  Can I reverse engineer it?  What kinds of cool things can I find?  What kind of emotions will it awaken in me?  A huge part of it is the effect it has on time.   The contrast of the story that was frozen in time against the story that marches ruthlessly onward causes me to feel the flow of time almost palpably.  It takes me into a spiritual space that I don’t go to anywhere else.

As I was sitting there, I realized that as I was revisiting a place I had been to in the past, reminiscing about the process of life since then, I was at the same time making new memories, living life in the present, as the person I am now, on the same land that I was on then.  My exploring that old mine was something new, even though it was in the context of savoring the old.  God brought me there now because He knew what it would do to my connection to time.  He knew what happens to me when I am around abandoned stuff like that.  He made me weird.

He brought me to the mine because it would tie the two seasons together.  There, in that place where I feel time so powerfully, I could reach into the past and unite it with the present and the future.  On the Mercy land that marked the beginning of it all, I could ask Him to take all these individual stories and make them one story moving into the future.   He cared enough about the process that He kept that mine a secret from me for over a decade, until just the moment when He brought me back to the same land to step into the flow of time, to tie together the past and the future and to launch me into yet another new season of life.

I am still in awe and moved to tears by His planning, His care in protecting the process, and the masterfully elegant way in which He fulfilled it.  He is the God of our individuality and He is the God who executes with finesse.

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